To Keep the Channel Open

Let me tell you a lie. It was not always a lie. It was the truth a month, a week, a day ago. It was true until an hour ago when I received an email from Ed, a man who’s braved being in a critique group with me. He wrote to tell me he’d had another story published and said he was looking forward to restarting our critique sessions. (We break for summer.)

channelI replied, “I no longer write fiction for publication.” And then I told him I’d be happy to read for him, but I no longer had need of a critique group. He asked why I’d quit writing.

I gave him reasons; just like I’ve given reasons to two other writers I’ve discussed this with in the last month. I explained it in various ways, but a lack of confidence in my writing is what it boils down to. I’m a perfectionist—and usually not in a healthy way. And concerning my writing, no matter how hard I try to push my perfectionist striving down, it always rises back up to choke me.

Nothing I’ve ever written is perfect. I wanted it to be. But I failed. Failed. I tried my hardest. I did the best that I could and that wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t perfect. And there’s zero chance I’ll ever write anything better, which I know because … like … I have these mad prognostication skills. Right?

Perfect is how this author writes. Or this one. Or even her, and she’s self-published like me. Or him, and he’s not even published yet. And besides, I’m not writing anything life-changing, so who needs my lame writing anyway?

I gave up. Hung up my keyboard. Tried to pretend I had no idea who that silly wannabe writer Linda Cassidy Lewis was. She’s not me. I don’t write fiction.

Okay. Yeah. So this man, Ed, took me seriously when I told him I had quit writing. And he sent me this quote from dancer/choreographer Martha Graham (emphasis mine):

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

The funny thing is, I’ve been working on accepting my personal limitations. Forgiving my “failures.” Learning to see the strength in vulnerability. Linda the Human has been working to apply this new mindset. But Linda the Writer never thought to pay attention.

So, it’s a lie that I’m no longer writing for publication. The truth is, I have no choice but to keep that channel open. I may not tell a story many care to hear. I may not tell it as well as other writers could. But I will tell it because it’s mine. It’s what I have to give. I must embrace that “queer dissatisfaction.”

It’s a new month, now. Let us proceed …

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Oh, for the love of writing!

2heartsIn a bit I’m going to share with you a post I wrote almost two years ago. I titled it “Write what you LOVE!” I wrote that post two months after The Brevity of Roses came out. I mentioned I’d starting writing a new novel, which became An Illusion of Trust. It’s now just about two months since Illusion was published and I’m in a “somber, angst-ridden” place again.

Partly that angst is expressed in working on this and that and the other, waiting for a project to spark my passion. Apparently, I’ll fall off the cliff after every novel I publish, but maybe the next time I’ll remember that’s normal for me and just ignore it. For now, I’m still anxious to experience that rush of being carried away with words. I’m hungry for that love of writing. Please, let me be “off and running again” soon.

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29 May, 2011

Yesterday, I started writing a somber, angst-ridden post. I guess the title and the hearts are clues this is not that post. My last post was a bit of a downer. Some of your comments led me to search my soul, question my Muse, and whine to some friends. Oh yeah, I can be a real joy.

The conclusion? I’d stopped writing for the sheer love of writing and started writing with the mindset of production. My work had ceased to be a creative expression and become merely a commercial product. I’d tried to force it. I worked on four different books. But ultimately, I ground to a halt.

Then a friend asked me to read the blurb for her next book, and the wheels started turning. Her blurb reminded me of one of my book ideas. I’d written up some notes and a couple of opening paragraphs. I looked for the file. It took me two hours because I couldn’t remember what I’d named the file, plus I thought I’d started it last year. When I finally found the right file, it had a nondescript name and was dated ’09.

I read what I’d worked up and realized the original idea wouldn’t quite work … but then … oh, then the floodgates opened! I could change this. I could tweak that. And—Oh!—what if this happened? I got so excited that I couldn’t write fast enough and had to go back to the computer to type.

I had doubts. “Is this crazy?” I asked myself. “Can I do this in my “genre”? “Could this be a good story?” I emailed a friend. She wrote back, “I think it would be great!” And that was confirmed when I remembered one of my favorite quotes:

“Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.

Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the Impossibles, the Won’ts.

Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.

Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.”

-Shel Silverstein

So, I’m off and running. I’m writing, writing, writing. I’m in love again.

Write what you love, dear readers. Life’s too short not to.

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Writing without writing

Suddenly, I have more writing to do than I can handle. I don’t do well with too many choices. Nor do I fair well in crowds, and right now, there’s a crowd in my head. With so many voices yapping at me, I can’t hear any of them. I have no choice but to resort to drastic measures.

Suddenly, I have more writing to do than I can handle. I don’t do well with too many choices. Nor do I fair well in crowds, and right now, there’s a crowd in my head. With so many voices yapping at me, I can’t hear any of them. I have no choice but to resort to drastic measures.

I’m cleaning my house. It’s March, so let’s say I’ll be Spring cleaning, not trying to make up for Winter neglect. Will an uncluttered, dust free, organized house result in a clear mind? Let’s hope so.

I know how this works though, this purposeful distraction, so I’ll be ready to take notes. If I’m lucky, by the time my house is clean I’ll have worked out the beginning to this story, the end of that one, and the muddy middle of a novel.

Oh yes, there’s also yard and garden work to do. Who knows what writing wonders will surface? (With or without alliteration.) Let the writing … er … cleaning begin!

Dare I vacuum the cat?

Tell me: Does all the writing in your head every overwhelm you? What helps you silence those too many voices? Or, if you have the opposite problem, what helps you fill the silence?

Still trying to find my way back

I feel as if I’m drifting in a small boat through the fog, drowsy, picking up snatches of muffled conversation as I pass by. But in reality the boat has docked. The fog has cleared. So why can’t I wake up? Quick, someone slap me.

I feel as if I’m drifting in a small boat through the fog, drowsy, picking up snatches of muffled conversation as I pass by. But in reality the boat has docked. The fog has cleared. So why can’t I wake up? Quick, someone slap me.

Little did I know when I took a break to prepare for Christmas that it would be so hard to get back to work. Even with a painful back (now on the mend) I should be able to wrap my brain around putting one word after another. The spirit is willing, but the mind is weak.

I opened my WIP last night and read through it, but didn’t add anything. It’s not even that I don’t know what scene comes next because I do, several scenes in fact. I’m not discouraged, or blocked, just scatter-brained.

That goes for social media too. I open Twitter, but nothing comes to mind to say. Ditto for Google+. For a few minutes, I lurk, reading what others have to say, and then leave. I can’t even think of anything worthy to say on my Facebook page.

Maybe I need more sleep. Or less caffeine. I need something, that’s for sure. I’m trying not to listen to that voice that’s whispering that maybe this is it. I’ll never write again. *sigh*

I know you’re better disciplined. It’s probably been easy for you to get back to work. And since we’re on the topic, what are you working on exactly?

Photo: The Lady of Shalott by William A. Breakspeare (1872-1903).

A lack of ideas is not the problem

Last night, during a phone conversation with my youngest sister, she asked what I’m writing now. My answer was, “Nothing.” Her response, “Do you want me to give you some ideas?” You can probably guess my answer.

Last night, during a phone conversation with my youngest sister, she asked what I’m writing now. My answer was, “Nothing.” Her response, “Do you want me to give you some ideas?” You can probably guess my answer.

I don’t have a lack of ideas. I have a file full of story ideas, some with opening lines or paragraphs, and maybe the ending. Unlike for many of you, it’s not even a lack of time that keeps me from developing those ideas. I have plenty of that.

It’s also not a lack of motivation keeping those stories unwritten. To be a successful self-published author, you need to put out good work often, at least until you’ve built up a reasonably sized back catalogue. That’s serious motivation.

I’m just waiting on that spark of inspiration. Wait! Don’t roll your eyes. I know the only way to write is to write. I know writing is work. Hard work. I know you have to get your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard. But for me, a lot has to happen before I get to that point.

Yes, I could review the notes I’ve made on one of these ideas and just start typing. I might get something solid—a paragraph of narrative, a bit of dialogue—but I’d also get a lot of garbage. I get impatient—overwhelmed—by garbage. I’m lazy. For me, it’s too much work to cull the few salvable bits from the reams of dross. That’s why I can’t participate in NaNoWriMo.

I think one of the hardest things for me as a beginning writers was to discover what method to use. Some authors write longhand on paper. Some write, then rewrite starting from scratch. Others plan out their entire story in detail before they write the first word. Still others, keep writing to the end of a draft without even a glance back at what they’ve previously written. It took me awhile to discover none of those worked best for me.

As I began writing this post, I had a particular short story niggling at my brain. I’ve been stuck writing it because I need to make a decision about the villain. However, halfway through writing this post, another story came to mind. It’s one I wrote almost seven years ago, but never felt satisfied with. I don’t know why it resurfaced now, but suddenly I have an idea how to revise it. I’m excited to get to work. My Muse will sort out that villain another day.

Be ready. You never know when inspiration will inspire strike.